Walton County was founded in 1824 and originally was comprised of more than 2,900 square miles including parts of Okaloosa, Washington, and Holmes counties. Turpentine was one of the original industry products supporting county settlers, and when this came to an end, bootlegging became popular. Needless to say, the days of the wild, wild west were alive and well here in Walton County.
Come and hear the history of the outlaws and villains of historical Walton County on March 27 at the Coastal Branch Library, sponsored by the South Walton Community Council. Those who enjoy real wild frontier law will find it amazing how early Walton County and surrounding areas meted out justice; and you too can share in the rich history of frontier justice.
The Walton County Sheriff's Posse, originally formed in 1865 and reorganized three years ago under the direction of Sheriff Michael Adkinson, has published a book on the history of the posse during the early days of Walton County.
The Sheriff's Posse, including Chick Huettel, long-time Walton County resident, artist and writer, along with Joe Stanko and Chuck Ebbecke will give a slide presentation and lecture on the development of the historical Walton County posse and law enforcement in the early and wild days of Walton County.
This program is sponsored by SWCC, an organization of residents, business owners and property owners whose mission is to advocate for the preservation, protection and enhancement of the quality of life and natural environment of south Walton County. To contact the SWCC call (850) 314-3749 or visit its website at www.southwaltoncc.org.
Earliest accounts of head scalping in Florida are connected with Simon Rodriquez, who was with Hernandez de Soto’s exploration team in 1540.
Archeologists have found skulls bearing signs of scalping in South America and America’s south, east and west. Ironically the Eskimo Indian never indulged in the head skinning.
But why scalps? When raids were planned, which included long treks into an area outside a tribe’s territory, the transporting of heads — especially if there was to be a massacre — was just too much to carry.
For the record, scalps told the story and were much lighter to transport. The scalp always went well with the warrior’s wardrobe or his wife’s wigwam/hut décor.
The tactic may have begun with the Indians, but the white settlers soon followed suit and placed monetary bounties on Indian scalps.
Walton County during its early days included most of today’s surrounding counties and one of the first Indian raids that took place in the area was on the Joseph Hart family, who lived near the Pea River.
The large family was reportedly butchered and only one child survived by playing dead. She was evidently not scalped and managed to stay alive till found. The scalping party then attacked Joseph’s brother, Robert, but he was able to keep his cabin boarded up. He and his sons killed and wounded seven of the attackers but one of his daughters was shot in the arm. There were other attacks, but the Creek Indians were to suffer a worse fate than what they inflicted.
A Col. Brown, who was in charge of a roving militia, encountered a small encampment of Indians on May 23, 1837, outside the hamlet of Alaqua, in northern Walton. With a troop of mounted men, Brown captured the small Indian party. The tiny cluster numbered about 12 or 13 souls. A reporter for the Pensacola Gazette later wrote of the incident to his editor:
“Your surmise in relation to the murder of 12 women and children proves correct. On my route westward I was necessarily obliged to pass a place where the murderous scene was enacted. The spot was no more than 15 feet in diameter. I minutely examined the place and am firmly of the opinion that the poor devils were penned up and slaughtered like cattle and such was the option of friendly Indians in company. The shrieks of the poor children were distinctly heard at a house about a quarter of a mile. Several were scalped, and all who had earrings had their ears slit with knives in order to obtain thin slivers of silver. Had the officer in command deemed proper to destroy them before their surrender there would perhaps have been no humanity in it, but after surrender and passing a swamp, all but impassible as prisoners, to be murdered in cold blood in the manner the scene dictated is worse than my imagination could conceive.”
It turned out only one old male Indian was in the group and the citizens in the area, though wanting protection, became irate at the murders. Brown simply disappeared from Walton history.
Fair winds to ye matey.
Chick Huettel is a long-time Walton County resident, writer and artist. He is a member of a number of local organizations including the Emerald Coast Archeological Society.